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Why do Therapy Homework: Theory and Practice

The value of therapy homework as a therapeutic process has a strong theoretical basis1

Homework is important so clients are able to apply the skills learned during sessions to multiple different situations that arise in everyday life. Learning coping skills at this practical level is strongly related to improved emotional processing. Homework is also important because it fosters independent use by the client of newly acquired skills. Clients learn coping skills during sessions. Their ability to use these skills on their own is a crucial determinant of their long term emotional health.

Empirical research shows that psychotherapy homework works!2

Clients who complete homework assignments have significantly better outcomes than clients who fail to do homework as part of their psychotherapy.3 Specifically regarding Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), it has been shown that CBT that involves homework has been shown to deliver considerably better outcomes than CBT consisting only of work done during the session.4 But, how much homework is enough homework? It seems like the more the better. It has been shown that clients who do the most homework have the best outcomes.5

REFERENCES:
  1. 1 Cognitive Therapy for Depression. Aaron Beck, 1979
  2. 2 Using homework in therapy for depression, Anne Garland, Jan Scott, Journal of Clinical Psychology 58: 489-498, 2002
  3. 3 Homework Assignments in Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy: A Meta-Analysis, Nikolaos Kazantzis, Frank P. Deane, Kevin R. Ronan, Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice 7:189-202, 2000
  4. 4 Beutler, L.E., Malik, M., Alimohamed, S., Harwood, T.M., Talebi, H., Noble, S., & Wong, E. (2004). Therapist variables. In M.J. Lambert (Ed.), Bergin and Garfield's Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change (5th ed., pp. 227-306). New York: Wiley
  5. 5 Does psychotherapy homework lead to improvements in depression in cognitive-behavioral therapy or does improvement lead to increased homework compliance?, Burns, D. D, Spangler, D. L, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 46-56, 2000.